Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Good That You Could Have Done

A man has fallen alongside the road. He cannot get up, and he cannot call for help. He is motionlessly still. But he is conscious, aware of what is happening to his failing body… scared, trembling, panicked, and unable to do anything but pray for his well-being.

A man walks by and sees him lying beside the road. He quickly looks away to avoid eye contact and rushes on passed. He doesn’t want to be bothered at the moment. He does, of course, have a very important meeting he has to get to.

The man lies on…

A woman rides her bicycle passed him. She notices him, and recognizes he may need help. However, she, too, passes him by. She couldn’t possibly be bothered by the man’s dirtiness (which only attached itself to the man when he fell to the ground). And besides, she doesn’t know him. For all she knows, he could just be another trickster out to lure another young woman such as herself into questionable circumstances, or worse.

The man lies on…

A young boy and girl (siblings) see the man from the back of their parent’s car as they ride by. The boy looks out of curiosity, but says nothing when he notices his parents look the other way. He has already been in trouble once today and doesn’t wish to cause anymore for himself. So, he says nothing. The girl notices the man too, but, like her brother, decides it’s best to keep quiet. She isn’t afraid of getting into any trouble, but she thinks old people are simply a waste of time. If the dirty, old man lies in the sun baking all day, she is sure it must be for reasons of his choosing—the man must have lived a rough life to end up on the side of the road in such squalid conditions.

The man lies on…

Finally, a policeman drives up to the man on his motorcycle and stops to see what the problem is. The man’s eyes are fixed and wide. His breathing has stopped. The policeman immediately calls for help and begins CPR. He is, however, no less than an hour too late. For the man had fallen beside the road some four hours earlier. He had been the roadside appeal to no less than ten other people in total. And he had received no help when it was most crucial to him to receive help.

The man lies on… dead.

I have always taken it to heart that sin is not only the bad that we do in our lives, but also the good that we could have done, but didn’t do. Each of us has probably had at least one moment of seeing a car stranded on the side of the road and been in too much of a hurry to stop and see if the person/s inside need help. We have rushed inside, allowing the door to slam in the face of the person behind us. We have seen someone hungry and neglected to feed them. We have seen someone with ripped up, dirty clothes, and neglected to help them get new ones. We have known of the old man or woman who lives down the street, neglected and lonely, and yet we rarely, if ever, stopped to pay them a visit. We have known someone who needed a ride someplace, but turned them down because we didn’t want to be bothered to drive a mile or two out of our way. We have forgotten to tell the ones we love that we love them, far too often. We have looked the other way when a friendly, but irritating acquaintance approached us in the store. We haven’t said the kind words that could have lightened another person’s day.

In so many ways, we have all been guilty at one time or another of not doing the good that we could have done. So often we are simply too selfish. We can’t be “bothered” to do that good: to give some time, money, energy, or care. Yet for those of us who call ourselves Christian, do we not remember how much Jesus gave of himself for us?

I am guilty of not always doing the good that I could do. I confess this. And it is in recognition of these moments that could have been that I typically feel the greatest of regrets.

As an example, I went to bed last night feeling terrible. I was exhausted from not having got to bed soon enough the night before and having worked a long work day in addition to that. But it was very much more caused by something else. I have been asked by one of the students I regularly sub for to attend one of his basketball games. I’ve put off other invites for various reasons—most of them because I just literally could not go for one reason or another. However, yesterday he invited me again. It was to be the last game of the season for his team should they fail to win. And so he wanted me to go see him play. I told him I would try to go, and I meant that I would try. I knew there were some obstacles, but probably nothing I couldn’t get around.

I ended up being able to go. Nothing was in my way, or stopping me.

But I didn’t go…

As I watched the clock tick off each minute until I knew it was too late, I felt such a deep regret that it felt like a huge weight had been placed upon me. I thought about that boy waiting eagerly for me to show up at his game, and never seeing me come through the doors—not even for a minute or two. And I thought about how, deep down, I honestly would have liked to see him and his team play at least once. And I thought about how important that would have been for him to have known that a teacher cared enough about him to show up like that.

I didn’t show up though. I could have. Instead, I chose to go home, get things ready for the next day, and again stay up later than I should have doing frivolous things. I feel terrible now for having made that decision. I keep thinking about how just to have shown up for a few minutes would have made all the difference in the world. I chose to sin instead.

I didn’t do the good that I could have done.

How often we each do this. How often are we the ones who walk on by? How often are we the ones who don’t show up? And how great are the consequences of those actions?

Sinning is not just doing bad things, as we traditionally view bad things to be. It is also seeing something good you could do, and simply not doing that good.

I really despise that sort of sin more than most others, especially when I am the one committing it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What Gay Guys Think About Vaginas

I have to say, this video struck me both funny and telling at the same time. It was funny because of a lot of the reactions and comments the guys in it made. It was telling for the same reasons.

As a gay guy, I don't honestly ever really think about vaginas. To be perfectly honest, I think they are weird--in both function and look. I'm sure if I had a vagina I would think differently, but as I do not, this is just how I feel. They have absolutely no appeal to me.

Even so, like some of the guys in this video, I do appreciate that particular part of human anatomy, recognizing that indeed they do serve a great specific purpose for sustaining humanity.

What do you think? And if we flip this around, what do lesbians think about penises?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Fountain of Youth

For a little more than a year or so, something I’ve struggled with is the knowledge of my own mortality. They say the reason 18 to 24 year olds make such good soldiers is because they rarely recognize how fragile life is, and are therefore more willing to take risks that can be potentially life ending than people who are older. Like them, I don’t think I realized how fragile my life is until my grandma passed away. She was the first person I’d ever been that close to who died. She wasn’t expected to die when she did. Her death was a huge shock to me, and it woke me up to the reality that life is short, and so very fragile. I can, and at some point will, die.

I used to think I was prepared for death. In a lot of ways I know I am. I know I believe in God and I try my best to follow His son as my Lord and Savior. I know I fail Him so very much of the time, but I believe I am forgiven through His grace. I believe I will go to Heaven when I die.

None of that prevents me from fearing death though. That’s something I have been struggling with. I am terrified of dying. I know death is a natural part of life, but I fear it still. And I fear growing old. What’s worse is that I have never, in my entire life, ever believed that I would live to be very old. It has always been a sort of gut instinct. And so I wonder just how much time I really have left. I wonder if I’ll be able to see my nephews grow up. I wonder if I will ever be able to have my own classroom. I wonder if I’ll be able to ever write anything significant, lasting, or memorable for anyone. I wonder if I’ll ever have a love of my life. I wonder if I’ll live long enough to do so many things. It scares me that I won’t.

I look back at my twenties as they come nearer to a close and I see how much I’ve accomplished and how far I’ve come in life. I made it through college, I worked my way up to a manager position at my former job, I wrote a book that was actually published (and a second that’s been sitting on the shelf), I’ve helped raise my nephews, I’ve made and lost friends, I’ve grown in my faith, and I have made so many memories and done so much more. I know I could continue to make and achieve dreams and goals in life. But I find myself wanting desperately to cling to my youth. I find myself looking back and wishing I was about to turn twenty again rather than thirty. I miss that feeling I used to have that all of my life was ahead of me. I just don’t feel that way anymore. I feel like I’m on a countdown and the seconds on the clock are running out. And this scares me.

I know I am getting older. I know there is still so much I would like to do. There just never seems to be enough time though. And anymore I just feel like time is something I’m constantly fighting against, trying to slow it down, trying to beat the clock, and get as much done as I possibly can, but failing to more often than I’d like.

I need a fountain of youth. Unfortunately that doesn’t exist and I know that any attempts at finding one would be an even bigger waste of time. But all of this gets me to thinking about how many people have died without finishing so many of their goals in life. That’s probably most of us. And what sort of goals will we have in our next lives? Of course, that’s the great unknown. Maybe that’s sort of my struggle there, though—I don’t know what exactly waits ahead. I think maybe that’s what scares me more than anything. I could live a long life and accomplish most of the things I’ve wanted to, I could live a long life and accomplish next to nothing, or I could live a short life and get very little done. And I don’t know what to expect in the next life. Maybe I’m just thinking too much on the here and now, worrying on it, when I should be keeping in mind that Heaven, whatever it turns out to be, will assuredly be better than anything of this life here on Earth. Regardless, the thought of dying does bother me, and with each passing year, I see that final second growing closer and closer, and wishing it was still miles ahead.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Something I’ve noticed about myself (despite whatever the content of this blog might suggest) is that I really get embarrassed or shy about talking about matters of sex, the physical body, and/or functions of the body. The way I was brought up, these were just things that were not discussed; and if anything relating to them was brought up, it was always quickly dealt with, hushed up, and/or often neglected altogether.

The furthest my parents ever actually came to talking to me about sex was my mom getting a pamphlet for me to read when I had to go for a physical exam before starting middle school. It did little to inform me about the birds and the bees, but it did actually have a couple of pictures and one or two diagrams in it that I found arousing at the time, which actually confused me even more than I already felt. Outside of that, I really don’t recall my parents ever talking to me about sex.

Actually, that’s not true… they did, but it was in the form of getting after me for things I didn’t know I shouldn’t be doing (at least it was things they didn’t want me doing, but in hindsight I really don’t see what the big deal was on most of it).

Looking back, they made it pretty darn clear that I was never, ever supposed to know anything about sex, or experience anything of a sexual nature. They brought me up in a very Victorian era sort of way. And many of their ideas stuck with me. I haven’t always approved of talk about sex. I haven’t wanted to talk about sex, or the body. It’s often embarrassed the heck out of me to hear others talk about such things, particularly in direct conversation with me. Now, in my late twenties, however, much of that embarrassment has waned. But I know I still get uncomfortable or shy about it at times.

If I’ve learned anything over the course of the last ten years or so, though, it’s that people make better decisions when they are both openly honest and well-educated about things. When people don’t ask questions, don’t talk about issues they’re facing, aren’t educated, that is when they make mistakes. For that reason, I have been so much more vocal about most things sexual in the last few years, beginning really around the time I started this blog. And I’ve tried to be more willing to engage in conversations with others needing to talk or ask questions. It’s the only way people can learn. When we keep quiet, we learn on our own (often wrongly), in hiding, sometimes developing complexes and feelings of shame for things that we shouldn’t, making bad decisions, and none of which is any good. That Victorian era mindset just doesn’t work. It prevents true knowledge. And there should be nothing wrong with knowing about things and experiencing things which are only normal. I mean, God created sex to be a very beautiful, special thing! Why then should we treat it as if it’s some hideous, scandalous, blasphemy?

With that in mind, I try not to be bothered about hearing or talking about sex, or the human body. I try to keep in mind that better decisions can be made with knowledge, than with ignorance. This is why I’ve written about much of the issues I’ve written about on this blog—why I’ve disclosed things about my own life and been willing to discuss these things and those experiences of others with others. It is also why I favor sex education in schools. Too many parents simply won’t teach their children about these things. And too many people learn only from their friends and their own deductions, often, as I’ve already stated, wrongly.

I know a lot of people are strongly opposed to any teachings about gay sex (or any sex for that matter) in schools, but I can sure bet that for the gay youth, knowing what is going on with their bodies and what are and are not safe sex practices are very important, and can even be lifesaving. AIDS is still a very big deal in this country, and it is still young gay men who tend to get AIDS above any other group. Proper sex education in schools could really help curb this (I will not get into a debate with anyone about Christianity being the true answer to this problem—I know Christian values are best, and I would always advocate them, but I say what I have in acknowledgment that not all people are going to be converted, or adhere to traditional Christian teachings, and that for those who won’t, this would be particularly important and useful teachings for them).

Sex education in schools can do far more than teach safe sex practices though. It can teach our young people about their bodies, to learn when something may be wrong, to learn ways of preventing pregnancy, to learn that they aren’t freakish for one thought or another, and so on. It is valuable education.

I honestly see a lot of progress taking place in our country. I see people being much more willing to talk about these sorts of issues than they used to be. It is a good thing, in my mind, and something which I hope will continue. But we can’t be turned off about talking about these things. We have to find our voices and be willing to speak and listen in order to make any real differences. Otherwise, we accept the ignorance and uninformed decisions that have so often plagued us. Having been a victim of that in the past, in many different ways, it is something I would like to prevent for others. I can try harder to get over my shyness to do that.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Friendly Advice

In the past, I have offered advice to other men on how to avoid acting out on their sexual desires. One bit of advice I have given is that it would be better to masturbate than to run out in some act of desperation to be with another guy. My thinking behind this was that if a person goes looking for sex, they not only sin themselves, but drag someone else into a sinful situation as well. If a person is going to sin, it would be far better for him or her to sin in such a way that only affects themselves, rather than others, too. That was my thinking behind such advice.

I’ve had some conflicting emotions about giving that advice, however, and often wonder if it really is the best advice to be giving. I know there are times when a person trying to abstain from all things sexually sinful can be tempted to a point that is near maddening. If you believe it is wrong to have sex outside of marriage, and even to engage in other self pleasing sexual activities, that can be a very real struggle. It means no sexual pleasure whatsoever. Not only does the mind sometimes work against you in this pursuit, but the physical body can as well. To be more simplistic about it, I’ll just say that it is a tough act—trying to completely abstain from all sexual activities.  A great many priests and nuns have proven it can be done, but knowing that still can be no great comfort to fighting those sorts of temptations when you feel like your mind is being ripped apart on the inside by them. And a person can experience a great deal of temptation sometimes, especially at moments of weakness, such as when feeling lonely, sad, tired, or angry. That’s when a person will usually give in, if they’re going to, and when they fall, they can fall hard.

Imagine a man on a diet, tempted for several weeks to eat something sweet that he knows he shouldn’t. He has a really hard day, comes home really tired, and there on the kitchen table is a piece of chocolate cake his wife made staring him in the face. He tells himself not to eat it, to look away, to leave the room. He leaves. But later as he comes back into the kitchen to get a glass of water, he sees it sitting there again, and deep inside he knows that every time he ever ate a piece of chocolate cake like that before, it always made him feel good somehow. He walks up to the table and has a seat. He drinks his water, telling himself over and over to look away from the cake and ignore it. He finishes the water, and then stands up to put the glass in the sink. But when he does, he notices the drawer of silverware next to the sink. He tells himself that maybe a small bite of the cake would be okay. So, he gets a fork and heads toward the cake, telling himself the whole time not to do it, to stop. He sits back down at the table. He weighs the pros and cons, but he sees that piece of cake sitting there on the table, looking better than anything he’s eaten in weeks now. The sweat begins forming on his forehead, his mind racing, his heart beating loudly, and before he even knows what’s happened, he’s eaten the entire piece of cake, in five seconds flat, and began ransacking the rest of the kitchen looking for anything else sweet to eat as well. Afterwards, he calms down, looks around the room, and realizes what he’s done. Then he feels regret, knowing he did something wrong.

It can be the same for someone trying not to engage in sexual activities when they are so tempted to give into them. And so, when a person feels that they are at that point of no return, I have believed it would be better for them, if they are going to sin, or honestly believe they will not be able to resist for much longer, to build it up in themselves not to bring others into their sin.

The reason I am conflicted about giving such advice though, is because all sin is equally damning. None of it is good for the soul, and all of it separates us from God. So, is it really any better for a person to engage in a sin that only affects him or herself, verses engaging in a sin that affects others as well? There are, of course different consequences for every sin. One sin may cause very few consequences, while another may cause the world to come crashing down on you. So, the weight of certain sins can at the very least feel heavier on you than that of other sorts. But is there really a difference? It’s a bit like saying if a man is going to have sex with someone it’s less sinful if he uses a condom. It’s still sex, with or without a condom. If a person masturbates (believing masturbation is a sin) rather than having sex, is he or she still not engaging in sexual sin? The obvious answer is yes. So, with that in mind, aren’t we really just talking about consequences? It’s not a matter of whether or not one sin is better for you, or less worse for you, than another, but whether or not one sin will be less or more consequential to you than another?

That’s a very different way to look at sin, I think. But still, if a person is going to sin, shouldn’t they try to sin in a way that is indeed less consequential? Is this still good advice to give people?